It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to

standard July 20, 2015 Leave a response

You know the song. Everyone knows the song. It’s by Lesley Gore. Pretty much the only thing anyone knows her for.

It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you…

It used to go ’round and ’round in my head when I was a teen and I threw parties that never quite went according to plan. My dad used to claim he’d met her once, that she was a sweet girl. And now that’s all I can think about.

It’s my birthday on Wednesday and for the first time since I can remember, I have no desire whatsoever to celebrate. I don’t want gifts. I don’t want a party. I don’t want a fuss of any kind.

I just want a day like any other.

And maybe I want to cry.

I know that people around me are starting to think that it’s time for me to shake off my grief, to get back to my cheerful, happy, gregarious self. But fact is, I’m not ready. And I don’t know when I will be.

I’d rather spend my evenings working or watching TV while playing dumb games on my iPod than going out with friends. I’d rather spend time with one or two close friends than a whole group of people. And I really don’t want to celebrate my birthday.

I have been on the other side of grief, watching friends suffer. I know exactly where they are, thinking that enough time has passed, that things should be getting back to normal by now. What I didn’t know, didn’t realize, is that sometimes things never get back to normal, that instead, a new normal is formed.

And that too is griefworthy.

Because what if along with grieving for my father and the relationship we should have had, I also have to grieve for who I was? What if I have to do all that work all while trying to figure out who I am now?

It’s all just beyond exhausting.

So, on Wednesday, I’ll bask in gratitude for the friends who are pretending to understand what I’m going through and the spouse who just wants to hold me while I go through it, and I’ll smile through my tears and try not to think about the one call that won’t come in.

Because it’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to.

Lesley said I could and I hear she was a sweet girl.

 

The shame that we all share

standard October 11, 2012 1 response

I’ve taken to watching Ted Talks on my smartphone when I run on the treadmill. Watching the news was making me grumpy and just music wasn’t distracting me enough. There are thousands of Ted Talks and never enough time to watch them all, this seems like a great solution.

I run and learn new things. It’s a win/win in my book.

To my delight, on Tuesday I discovered that Brené Brown had given a second Ted Talk, one I hadn’t yet heard.

Of course, I should have considered that Brené has a tendency to speak truths that at times make me cry, but whatever, I can’t be the first person who has raced a machine while crying, right?

Her first talk, which I’ve watched numerous times, have blogged about, and have forced many friends to watch, covered the topic of vulnerability. This new talk dives into the subject of shame, the research subject that originally sent Brené onto her discoveries about vulnerability.

Shame.

Such a loaded word and concept. Definitely something none of us like to think about, let alone admit we ever feel. We like to pretend that shame is reserved for the huge stuff, that’s it’s linked to big bad things like rape, cheating, or those things that society agrees is wrong. But shame is more than just that, we all experience shame, it’s present in all of our every day lives, parading as something else. And ironically, none of us should feel shame about feeling shame.

According to Brené Brown, while guilt is the focus on behavior, shame is the focus on self. It’s that inner voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough. For women, apparently, shame centers on a “web of unattainable conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be.” (For men shame is different, check out the video below for more details on that.)

Ain’t that the truth…

We are women. We are expected to “do it all, do it perfectly, and never let them see you sweat.”

Did I just make you a tad anxious?

So sorry. It’s not me. It’s society.

That post I wrote last year? About not being Super Woman? I wrote that out of shame I felt over not being able to do it all. The outpouring of love and support shocked me. I thought I’d be flagellated for admitting my failures. Instead I was embraced, not even picked on by a troll.

Shame is also that voice, for me my Egmos, the voice that constantly asks me who I think I am, who talks me out of writing, who talks me into second guessing my choice of topic for my second book.

Why do we let shame cow us? Why do we let shame keep us from being who we want to be? Who we feel we could be?

Does shame only retract when we start talking about it? When we open up and realize we all feel the same way?

If that’s the case, then let’s talk. Let’s share. Let’s let it all out. What does your shame tell you?

I’m a mom who takes good care of her kids, but crappy care of her house. I’m a writer who loves to write, but who rarely lets herself write what she loves. I’m a friend who can’t seem to write to her far flung friends. I’m…

I’m just a woman trying to face her shame so it loses the control it has on her life.

Sensitive Little One

standard November 24, 2010 2 responses

Little L has always been my tough little cookie. Where C wears her heart and her emotions on her sleeve and her face, Little L is harder to read, harder to reach. C will bend over backwards to get approval and to feel like she’s pleasing those around her. Little L lives to please… herself.

I always assumed that her lack of need of external validation meant that she was tougher and less sensitive than her sister.

I’m slowly learning that I was wrong.

The other day, a rainy Saturday, we all huddled under a blanket to watch Up. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you might have heard that it’s not the most uplifting flick out there. I have yet to meet a grown-up who’s been able to watch the opening scene dry-eyed.

Towards the end of the movie the main characters have to say goodbye to a friend and out of the blue, completely unexpectedly, Little L started wailing. Not just one quiet tear, but real, honest to goodness wails, with tears and sobs. She huddled in my arms and empathized with the movie characters.

I’m a movie crier. I just didn’t think little kids could be too. 

The day I broke a tooth that wasn’t my own.

standard December 1, 2009 6 responses

The pristine white bathroom always gleamed. White tiles, white counter tops, white bathmats and towels, the only splashes of color that marred the still space came from the two little boys playing with their bright plastic tub toys in the large white tub.

We had a daily ritual. I would arrive at 5 to relieve the daytime sitter, sit them down to go over their homework, and then, after a bit of horsing around I would herd the two of them into their parents’ bathroom for their evening bath. They were little, 6 and 3, sweet and innocent, and much too young to be self aware in front of their favorite babysitter. I had known both boys since infancy, spending countless afternoons with them while their parents worked late. I loved them like I would have loved little brothers and they, in turn, trusted me like they would have trusted a sister.

One afternoon like any other I knelt by the side of the tub, washing one child after the other, squeezing the little rubber shark to splash them with water. Giving them a bath had long since lost any nerve-wracking aspect. The caution that had governed me the first few months of the evening routine had long since given way to playful attention. I washed them, I played, but I no longer cringed when they slipped a little in the tub. I no longer watched them like hawks to make sure that they didn’t drown in the couple of inches of water that I allowed.

On that one day though, that one day like every other, I’m the one who slipped up. I had successfully washed the younger brother. He sat, gleaming and dripping, at one end of the massive tub, waiting to be taken out and dried off, patient while I turned my attention to his older brother.

The bigger boy grinned up at me, brown eyes bright under his mop of curly hair, smile tugging at his mouth, oversized brand new “grown-up” incisors peeking out over his bottom lip, then he ducked out of my way when I reached over to wash him. I parried and he ducked again, and then, getting into the spirit of the game, I lunged for him, ticklers at the ready.

Just as the tips of my fingers were about to touch his side, a massive THUNK dropped my stomach into my toes. The blood curdling scream that followed did little to reassure me.

The younger brother whimpered as the older brother looked up at me, fear mingling with the tears that were pooling in his eyes. His mouth opened wide to let loose another cry and the jagged front tooth told me what my ears had failed to translate.

While leaning forward to avoid being tickled he had smashed his face against the side of the tub and broken his brand new permanent tooth cleanly in half.

You would think that the mortification would end there, with the little boy, maimed at my hand, waiting for me to comfort him and make it all better. But no, I still had to find the piece of tooth, take both children out of the tub, comfort the one whose smile I had destroyed, dry them, dress them, and finally find the telephone so I could call their mother to tell her what I had done.

Which still wouldn’t have been so bad if while I was doing all this, fighting back tears and swallowing bile, the same little boy hadn’t felt the need to comfort me with pats on the shoulder and sweet words of encouragement as he watched me dial her number.

Clearly the pain of breaking a tooth was nothing compared to the horror of betraying their mother’s trust. The dentist magicians managed to reattach the broken part of his tooth the next morning, but I’ve never forgotten the sound of his face hitting the side of the tub or the knowledge that I had not only failed to protect the child who had been placed in my care, but I had been the one to hurt him.

(I have written about this family once before. Oddly enough it was to relate another mortifying story. Despite what you may imagine I did not stop watching those two boys until I moved away. I still miss them, though. Their Facebook profiles are proof that both have grown up into strapping young men and that neither bears any scars from the time they spent with me.)

This post was written in response to the first ever Write-of-Passage challenge. Write-of-Passage is a brand new Ning group created for and by writers who hope to improve their writing through constructive critiquing. Other posts on the topic of Most Embarrassing Stories are linked to below.